Ipswich business worry as customers rein back spending

St Peter's Street

Independent businesses in Ipswich town centre have noticed a dip in customers and spending over recent months. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Independent businesses in Ipswich town centre have seen a significant fall in trade as the cost of living crisis grips the country - and have real fears about what the future holds later this year.

Ipswich Central chief executive Sophie Alexander-Parker said she had spoken to many independent businesses in the town centre who had seen the number of customers - and their takings - fall over recent months as fears over the cost of living rise.

Sophie Alexander-Parker Ipswich Central

Sophie Alexander-Parker of Ipswich Central. - Credit: Cherry Beesley/Simply C Photography

She said: "But what they are really concerned about is what will happen in October when the next rise comes in and people are starting to need to use more energy in the winter.

"That will come just as many retailers are looking at their most important time of the year. Many of them are trying to make plans for that now but simply don't know what is going to happen."

The latest uncertainty comes after two years of Covid restrictions and uncertainty over the future and has left many businesses very concerned, she added.

The wider Suffolk business community welcomed the support for those families and individuals hardest-hit by the energy cost increases, but felt not enough was being done for their sector.

Paul Simon from the Suffolk Chamber said: “Businesses and the rest of society exist in a symbiotic relationship – the prosperity of both is intrinsically linked.  

Paul Simon

Paul Simon from the Suffolk Chamber - Credit: Nicky West Photography/Suffolk Chamber

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"So we are pleased with the support being given to households as people are facing real hardship amid one of the worst cost-of-living crunches in recent memory.

“Yet the energy profits levy seems to offer no relief to hard-pressed businesses coping with accelerating energy and fuel costs.

“Business support, even of a temporary nature, would certainly have been welcomed by our membership and the wider Suffolk business community.

"Our most recent Quarterly Economic Survey shows the growing pressures on the wide range of sectors we represent in reports of declining cashflow, static or declining domestic and overseas sales and orders and question marks over short-term profitability levels.

“Unless steps are also taken to ease business costs and soon, they will likely feed into the inflationary pressure on the economy and quickly eat into the financial support announced today."

Although independent shops in Ipswich are concerned about the future, Mark Cordell from Our Bury St Edmunds said he had heard no such concerns in that town.

He said there were five new businesses about to open in the town - four in the hospitality sector: "Their optimism is well placed."